It’s not a new saying, but whenever it’s used now everyone instantly agrees, it should be a resourcing mantra, particularly in tougher times.

As recruiters we spend most of our time looking for people with a skillset, with a historical CV that ticks the boxes that clients want.

It’s changing.

Job description tick lists are no good, because you will rarely find the people who tick every box, and if you do there is no guarantee that they will succeed.

Past performance can be a very unreliable indicator of future achievement.

I was intrigued to read a blog from Katie McNab – Customers Aren’t Always Right.

Read it! Because she is UK Recruitment Manager for one of the largest FMCG brands on the planet. And she wants her team to challenge hiring managers, forget what may suit them and start looking at what the business needs.

My favourite part is:

A line manager with a team of 5-6 people might recruit once a year.  He or she will have a very short-term goal in mind.  They want someone to fill the “empty chair”. And while they don’t recruit very often, they usually still have some very firm views about what “good” looks like.


But we recruit all the time.  We live and breathe this stuff.   We know our markets, our industries and our legal obligations.  And that gives us the right and the responsibility to challenge line managers on their requirements.

How many 3rd party recruiters challenge a client? We also live and breathe this stuff, but how many of us push back and really help the client to be creative?

Very few I guess.

Are we too scared of losing the brief? Scared of missing a fee? Do we want to just fill empty chairs?

Have we lost the bottle to invest time in building credibility with the client by bringing some real INSIGHT to the process? Because that’s how long-term relationships are developed.

Ah yes, INSIGHT.

If you read my last blog you’ll know that the good people from LinkedIn said that the number one priority for a 3rd party recruiter focusing on maintaining some form of market position is Insight over Data.

I would grab this as an opportunity to forget searching for historical CVs and start looking for real talent, with real potential and real attitude.

Clients use us because we can give them an insight to the market, a window onto the world of potential talent that is available, either actively or passively.

So stop giving them what they can find themselves…and start finding people that they can’t.

Rarely a day goes by without talk of a skill shortage…and most recruiters nod compliantly and see this as an opportunity…but an opportunity for what?

If the skills aren’t there, then they aren’t there. So instead of acquiescing, and firing out dozens of headhunt calls, and placing numerous online job ads, just STOP!

Remember Katie’s hypothetical example?

Given the choice of a solid Brand Manager from a global competitor or the owner of a small start up who has managed to launch a fantastic product with limited resources, and really creative solutions…  I think the managers would instinctively lean towards one option.  And I think the business as a whole would lean in the other direction.


3rd party recruiters need to be able to offer the same approach, the same confidence…and the same INSIGHT.

Stop looking for skills and start looking for attitude…then let the best companies take care of the upskilling.

Views: 491

Comment by Jason Monastra on January 17, 2011 at 12:20pm

I love the post, well placed and well said on a subject matter that truly needs attention.  I like especially the comment on challenging the manager.  Issue I hear from people mostly is the lack of access to the manager and limited communications with the person hiring.  They are sending blind resumes through a VMS or speaking to HR.  Challenging the hiring manager than becomes an issue and offering true value is even more an issue. 


Though we sell solutions and project mgmt services, ancillary staffing comes across the table quite frequently.  I would suggest to everyone that your post details what must be done, but to do so you must have audience with the right people.  Set those parameters first and then accept working the role.  If all you have is a VMS with no contact, little value is available as you cannot sell attitude vs. resume content as there is no one to hear your voice. 

Comment by Steven G. Davis on January 17, 2011 at 1:37pm
"I can teach skills, I can't teach behaviors"- H. Kelliher. This about sums it up. Yes it is up to us ( Recruiters) to go the distance and present the candidates that not merely meet the "skill set" but as well the unique behaviroal skill set to match. Yet, in order to do this you need more insight from the Hiring Manager.
Comment by Edwin Ostrand on January 17, 2011 at 1:44pm

Well stated! I have always worked outside the box for my clients, while they may not hired the person, they did respect and liked my approach.  Often I brought talent that did not fit perfectly to their check list, but they hired  them and are happy they did.  Yes, more recruiters need to think from the clients side of the desk, looking at their business overall in order to bring talent that will not only grow the business, but help fill future needs as well. Your clients will trust and respect you for do this, and you set yourself apart from the pack.


Edwin Ostrand


"Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work." -- Aristotle

Comment by Mike Grennier on January 17, 2011 at 2:51pm
Hiring people into a company is a long-term commitment.  The "technical skills" will change. Their attitude?  Not over the long time.  Great article....
Comment by Ilona Jerabek on January 17, 2011 at 3:56pm

According to research, past performance IS, indeed, the best predictor of future performance. 


1) having done a task before doesn't say anything about the performance (you have many programmers who have programmed in specific programming language, but they will not put on their CV that they write spaghetti code)

2) past employers will be reluctant to do anything beyond confirmation of employment if the person's performance was not good, so you can't really rely on references to confirm the past performance.


Attitude, work ethics, job fit and work culture fit are essential, as long as the underlying core competencies are there.  I understand that many companies want the new hires to hit the ground running, but I would rather make sure that the new hire is a good fit for the position, team and company than to hire someone with all the skills ... people with "good brain, bad attitude" are costly in many ways.

Comment by Paul Basile on January 17, 2011 at 4:29pm


Actually, past performance is NOT the best predictor of future performance and the research shows that.  It's not the worst predictor either but, overall, it's not a great predictor.  Reliable evidence can be gained from performance appraisals, interviews, and other objective measures.  Still, we agree on the fundamental: fit is more important as a performance predictor, than skill for most jobs.

Comment by Maria Mull on January 17, 2011 at 7:06pm

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills ....this is an interesting concept.  I agree and disagree to your blanket statement. 

To demonstrate my point of view consider this..... I can have the best ATTITUDE in the world and may want to become an Astronaut, an Engineer, or President of the United States but if I do not have the skill set, aptitude, the training, past performance or personality (just to name a few things necessary for success) to perform the job responsbilities required then I am not a "good fit" even though my attitude is great.  How about this example:  I have the best attitude you have ever seen and my goal is to be a world champion speed skater with sponsorhsips around the country.....but if I can't walk...then my attitude is null in insignificant.  Let's face it no amount of training will help me be successful achieving my goal nor will you help your client find the "right" person to sponsor if you hire for attitude first.

In conclusion, as a Professional Recruiter, I believe it takes more than a resume or attitude to fill a position.  Of course Attitude certainly helps and is a big contributor to success but it does not belong ahead of Skills, Aptitude, Personality, Culture and so on.  If you brought me someone who had a great attitude without the skills and told me to train them, I most likely would disengage with you as my hiring partner (sorry don't mean to be so hard here) but Rookie Recruiters could get into real trouble with this thought "hire for attitude and train for skills".  Now on the other hand  if you are speaking about a job that takes very little skill training then maybe....yeah attitude could help.

As in any industry there is no  "magic hiring bullet".  We should understand that hiring the right person is a combination of skills, aptitude, personality, capability, culture, trainability, willingness, etc, that is needed for the highest and best results.



Comment by Maria Mull on January 17, 2011 at 8:06pm
I find it interesting my post was removed
Comment by Mervyn Dinnen on January 18, 2011 at 1:46am
Your comment is still here Maria...not sure which post you are referring to
Comment by Mervyn Dinnen on January 18, 2011 at 1:48am
Thanks guys, overwhelmed with the response and the debate. I will add my own views later...those who follow me through other social media platforms will know that I'm currently on my own job hunt and and this is (thankfully) quite busy at the moment. Will post later!


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2024   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service